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PICTURE: USAF suffers first Northrop B-2 stealth bomber crash

The US Air Force has launched an investigation following the first loss involving its’ more than $1.1 billion Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The aircraft – one of four deployed to the Pacific island of Guam from Whiteman AFB, Missouri – crashed shortly after take-off on 22 February. Both crew members ejected and are in “good condition”, according to a statement released by the US Pacific Air Forces command.

The 509th Bomb Wing B-2 detachment was in the process of being replaced by six Boeing B-52 bombers as part of a scheduled rotation in support of the US-led global war on terrorism, and the PACAF confirms that “No munitions were on board at the time of the accident.”

 ©PA Photos

Now reduced to an active inventory of 19 aircraft, the USAF’s B-2 fleet achieved initial operating capability in April 1997, and has since supported US and coalition combat operations in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. The aircraft could potentially receive the service’s developmental Boeing Massive Ordnance Penetrator: a 13,600kg (30,000lb) bunker-busting weapon as part of a future upgrade.

Read Stephen Trimble's comments on the crash in his blog, The Dew Line

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